Sunday 31 July 2016

Guest Post - The Changing Face of Women's Fiction by Victoria Fox - Blog Tour

Women’s fiction is changing. ‘Chick-lit’, a provocative tag, used to be about high heels, handbags and heartbreak – but not any more. Over recent years, women’s fiction has seen a surge in psychological thrillers, blockbuster action and exotic time-slip. Cosy armchair romances, thanks to what I call the ‘Great Vintage Revival’, have found a new fan base, incorporating baking, teashops and beach houses. There is a whole host of women’s literature, a huge variety with potential to appeal between ages and sexes. Why, then, are women writing for women seen as light, frothy or inconsequential?

The chick-lit hangover is one we’ve got to get past. Often, my books are referred to as chick-lit – I don’t mind, after all the chick-lit stable is one I’m happy to join, peopled as it is with the groundbreaking likes of Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes – but undoubtedly it is a reductive term. Men do not have an equivalent. Novels about fast cars, great battles, agents and spies, subjects deemed (absurdly) to be male pursuits, are not labelled ‘lad-lit’. So why us? It’s the emotional content, maybe, the loves and losses and heartbreak, the secrets, the sex and the below-surface, that classify these books as women’s. It’s diminutive to men, too: it’s not seen as masculine to be interested in these things. Books are life experience, everyone’s experience. It’s not as cut and dried as a pink cover or a blue cover.

Are my books populated by ‘chicks’? No, more often cocks, hee hee. Because mine is a bonkbuster, loud and proud. It’s got the emotion but it’s also got the action, the helicopters, the assassins and the scandal. It’s a story led by women but they’re not sitting at home with their knitting needles: they’re running the show. Read a ‘chick-lit’ book and you’ll find the protagonists are much more than your Jimmy-Choo-wearing, Sex-and-the-City-watching, Cosmopolitan-drinking stereotype. Frankly, you couldn’t write a book about anyone at all if those were their limits. But if these female characters express emotion or thought or analysis, they instantly become ‘chicks’. It’s a tricky word to navigate, but we’re managing it.

I think the key is in giving a protagonist more to think about than a man. For too long, chick-lit has been associated with the single twenty-something looking for marriage and babies, as if that is all a woman can and should aspire to in life. Do we see her male counterpart sitting cross-legged in a nearby bar, nursing a glass of Pinot Grigio and worrying about whether he’s too fat for a girlfriend, or his calves are too big for Tinder? 

Now, thankfully, we’re seeing a great spectrum of women heroes leading their stories, and they’re nothing to do with Getting the Guy. It’s about getting the job, or getting the house, or getting the truth, or getting the dream. It’s about taking control and taking charge. Pour the wine down the sink and put some trainers on instead of those heels. Better to run in. 

The covers have long been a problem – it’s not just men who don’t want to be seen reading a pink, glittery book; it’s me, and many other women – but they’re changing too. Packaging is catching up with content. And soon, hopefully, it won’t need to be called women’s fiction at all – just as ‘men’s fiction’ has no place on the bookshelf. Fiction, one and all, from a vast, shared pool of imagination.

Victoria Fox’s The Santiago Sisters is published 28th July (MIRA, £7.99)

Thank you so much Victoria Fox for your thoughts on Women's fiction and Chick Lit, and I must say I do love a good bonkbuster!

About Victoria Fox

Victoria Fox divides her time between Bristol and London. She used to work in publishing and is
now the author of 6 novels.

@Mira_BooksUK   @VFoxWrites   #TheSantiagoSisters

Amazon buy link:

Book Review - The Santiago Sisters by Victoria Fox - Blog Tour

Amazon UK
Title: The Santiago Sisters
Author: Victoria Fox
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: MIRA
Publication Date: 28th July 2016 
Rating: 5 Stars

They should have stayed as one. They couldn’t survive apart.
It was fate, forever destined to come to this: from birth to death, two halves of the same whole.

Twins Calida and Teresita Santiago have never known a world without each other…until Teresita is wrenched from their Argentinian home to be adopted by world-famous actress Simone Geddes.

Now, while Teresita is provided with all that money can buy, Calida must fight her way to the top – her only chance of reuniting with her twin.

But no one can predict the explosive events which will finally bring the Santiago sisters into the spotlight together…

Powerful..compulsive and intriguing story, that is fast paced and Victoria Fox at her best. This has to be one of the best poolside reads of the season, with its glitz, glamour, secrets, strong female characters, sex and even some sun! 

I was hooked from the first page until the last, as I was drawn into the tale of twin sisters Calida and Teresita Santiago, as you learn of their vastly different lives from childhood until the incident in the prologue. 

In fact the prologue and small snippets of what was to come were cleverly inserted through the book, but in such a way that although you understood the action, the involved characters are kept a secret until the last possible moment, where the pace is ramped up further and the book reaches its dramatic conclusions. 

Two sisters, who both believe the other no longer cares about them, due to one decision on behalf of their mother. The first part set on an Estancia in Argentina was fascinating, as its the sort of location I didn't know much about before reading the book, but one that I got a decent feel for as I was reading the book. 

I was bewitched by the storytelling, and it reminded me of how much I love this author, as its been a few years since I read anything by her, although suddenly I don't mind waiting as long for a book, when you then read something with this level of quality and enjoyment. 

A simply superb summer hit book, The Santiago Sisters, was an unputdownable triumph to read, spanning a 20 year period, and a solid look at the lives of twins, that have been separated and still seem to have various things in common. 

Thank you to Netgalley and MIRA for this review copy. This was my honest opinion. 

Saturday 30 July 2016

Book Review - Love Me Tinder by Nicola May

Amazon UK
Title: Love Me Tinder
Author: Nicola May
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Review copy supplied by author
Publisher: Accent Press
Publication Date: 31st July 2016
Rating: 5 Stars

Dull security or risky freedom - which would you choose? 

With her marriage in pieces, shy Cali Summers is faced with this decision and hits the world of fast love on an internet dating app. 

Using room 102 in the hotel where she works as her dating 'lair', she opens herself up to a world of sex, lies, deception, as well as personal discovery and passionate love. 

With a charming F1 engineer, a handsome army officer and her adulterous ex all on the scene, a predictable love match is far from on the cards.

There is quite a lot I want to say about this book, but I'm going to need to be careful of potential spoilers. My overwhelming feeling after finishing Love Me Tinder is that it could be made into a fabulous romantic comedy film, as it has all the elements there already, and I can see it easily on a big screen. 

This was one of those books that had me giggling to myself from very early on, and I just didn't really stop throughout. Love Me Tinder is very easy to read, with lots of short chapters, to the extent that you will find yourself saying just one more chapter, and 10 will pass before you surface again. 

Cali Summers goes from being upset about her cheating soon to be ex-husband into a world of tinder and casual encounters, some more horrifying than others, and most of the situations will probably be familiar to regular users of the app. 

Cali also has a best friend Annie, who she is trying to help out, and has some great colleagues in the hotel where she works, with one of them even letting her use room 102 for some of her encounters.  Cali is if anything a bit too naive to be taking part in online dating, and I couldn't help but wish I could have knocked a small amount of sense into her. 

The majority of the chapters are from Cali's view point, however every now and then you will get a quick snipped focusing on another character, often allowing the reader to have a sneak peek of relevant information that Cali is yet to know about. So even though I knew some things were potentially coming, I still enjoyed seeing the various reactions once they were out in the open. 

Although I have only read a few books by Nicola May so far, I am continually impressed by her writing and sense of humour. I thought Love Me Tinder was absolutely fantastic and I was sorry to see it finish. 

Thank you so much to Nicola May for this review copy. This was my honest opinion. 

Back Catalogue Books - Q&A with Tracey Sinclair

Back Catalogue Books is my new regular Saturday feature, focusing on books that are not the latest releases. There is going to be a mix of Q&As and also reviews, depending on what I have the space for. 

If you are an author wanting to take part in Back Catalogue Books then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you. 

I hope everyone enjoys this weekly look back at some of the slightly older books that are about but still great, and that I eventually make a dent in my TBRs as a result of it! 

So without further ado, my first guest on Back Catalogue books is: 

Tracey Sinclair is an author and freelance editor and author. She has written for numerous publications in print and online, and her short stories have been included in a number of anthologies, been performed on the radio, and won several awards. She is also a performed playwright, and a theatre reviewer for Exeunt and The Stage. She has written 8 books (5 novels and 3 collections of short stories).

1) Please tell me about your first book, and what started you writing in the first place

I know it’s a cliché but I’ve written stories as long as I remember. I got my first ‘paid for’ story published in a magazine when I was 17 and just kept going from there. My first novel, Doll, was published back in 2005, and is best described as contemporary fiction – it’s a dark, twisted romance about how messed up families are.

2) How many books have you written and what are they?

I’ve written 5 novels and 3 collections of short stories – Doll was my first novel, published by the small press publisher Kennedy and Boyd, who also published my first short story collection, No Love is This. Then I decided, because I was working so much in digital media, I wanted to try indie publishing, and started the Dark Dates series, which has now extended into 3 novels (Dark Dates, Wolf Night, Angel Falls and 2 collections of short stories – A Vampire in Edinburgh and Other Stories, and A Vampire in New York and Other Stories). I also wrote a rom-com, The Bridesmaid Blues.

3) Which book are you most proud of writing?

I’m proud of them all, as they all represent different things, and me trying new things or taking risks in different directions. They’re my babies!

4) Which book was your favourite to write?

The Dark Dates books, without a doubt. I only started writing them as a bit of an exercise – I’d written a short story for a friend about a vampire dating agency, but the idea stuck with me, and at the time the world was going crazy over Twilight and I wanted to write something that could embrace the genre – which I love – but not have such a wimpy heroine, and be savvy and funny. And they just turned into such fun to write, I love them – I get to think up lots of jokes and outrageous scenarios, and use settings around London that I know well.

5) Who are your favourite characters from your books and why?

I love the Dark Dates crew – Laclos and Cain are both hot and exciting to write (is it sad to fancy your own characters? I don’t care!), and I enjoy writing the girls, too, especially Cass, who gets to be snarky and sarcastic and has a lot of me in her, so is easy to write – though I do wish I had her talent for comebacks in real life (not to mention the aforementioned hot guys). I also have a fondness for Luce from The Bridesmaid Blues – again based on me, a little bit, she’s well-meaning and funny but a bit of an emotional and romantic car crash, so I can’t help being fond of her.

6) If you could go back and change anything from any of your books, what would it be, and why?

I’d change the cover to Doll – it was a good idea but didn’t work in execution. I’d probably spend more time editing but that might be just because you never think your books are truly finished!

7) Which of your covers if your favourite and why?

My favourite is actually my current book, Angel Falls – I love that feather! But I also love Bridesmaid Blues, as I think it captures the novel well and I wanted to avoid the usual chick lit cartoony cover. (I work with the same designer, Caroline Goldsmith of Goldsmith Publishing Consultancy, on all my recent books, and I like what she does). I also liked the razor blade in the heart image on the front of No Love is This, which was done by Jo Gurney of Stella My Star.

8) Have you ever thought about changing genres, if so what else would you like to write?

As you can see, I have done! I’d like to try proper science fiction next, and crime/thriller. I have a few ideas kicking around…

9) Looking forward can you let us know what you are working on next?

I’m working on the next Dark Dates book, and have a couple of other projects in the works but they are at an early stage.

10) I dare not ask for a favourite author, but is there any author’s back catalogue you admire and why?

For consistency and quality, John Connolly, Terry Pratchett, Pat Barker, Jim Butcher, Dennis Lehane, A L Kennedy and Ian Rankin. Too many to list. I also quite admire people who just wrote one or two exquisite novels then packed it in…

11) Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your back catalogue of books?

Other than give them a try? I try to subvert the genre a little – I often get people saying to me, ‘I never read vampire books, but I loved yours!’ – so that there’s lots to like if you’re a fan of the genre, but they can appeal even if you’re not. For instance, Bridesmaid Blues is a little more down to earth than your usual romcom (it’s set in Newcastle, for a start!), and Dark Dates both embraces the urban fantasy genre but pokes fun at some of the tropes that have become clichés (my inspiration for the style of writing was shows like Buffy and Supernatural, which tend to be very self-aware). So give ‘em a go!

Thank you so much Tracey Sinclair for this great interview, and for kicking off my latest feature. 

About Tracey Sinclair
Tracey Sinclair is an author and freelance editor and writer. Her books include the romcom The Bridesmaid Blues and the Dark Dates/Cassandra Bick series. Her latest book, Angel Falls, is out now.

The Bridesmaid Blues:
Angel Falls:

Friday 29 July 2016

Book Review - No Turning Back by Tracy Buchanan - #20BooksofSummer

Amazon UK
Title: No Turning Back
Author: Tracy Buchanan
Format reviewed: Paperback
Source: Supplied by publisher
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: 28th July 2016
Rating: 5 Stars

You’d kill to protect your child – wouldn’t you?


When radio presenter Anna Graves and her baby are attacked on the beach by a crazed teenager, Anna reacts instinctively to protect her daughter.

But her life falls apart when the schoolboy dies from his injuries. The police believe Anna’s story, until the autopsy results reveal something more sinister.

A frenzied media attack sends Anna into a spiral of self-doubt. Her precarious mental state is further threatened when she receives a chilling message from someone claiming to be the ‘Ophelia Killer’, responsible for a series of murders twenty years ago.

Is Anna as innocent as she claims? And is murder forgivable, if committed to save your child’s life…?

I had no idea what to expect when No Turning Back dropped through my letterbox the other day, I had not read any of Tracy Buchanan's books but had heard good things about them...and then I started No Turning Back. 

This book has kept me enthralled from its eventful opening, to its gripping conclusion that left me open mouthed. I just didn't see it coming. As I was reading, quite a few times various theories popped into my head as to various aspects of the large mystery and every time I was wrong about them all, I just didn't expect the book to conclude how it did. 

And with all the drama that occurs during the story, as well as some very chilling sections, I started to have my own doubts about the main character Anna. 

Anna in a rash moment to protect her baby from harm, reacts and unintentionally kills a school boy, who had a knife. From that time on her life is thrown into turmoil, and I found myself wondering if I would do the same thing to protect a loved one. Early on in the story there are a lot of thought provoking moments, that really do get you thinking outside the book. 

As is often the case with these thrilling suspenseful books I am reluctant to say much else about the story, as its far better for you to read it without too many preconceptions, so you can enjoy it fresh like I did. I really had no idea what to expect from this fabulous author, with her brilliant descriptions, and compulsive storytelling, that left me unable to put the book down. 

This is a triumph of a story, and one I think that may stick with me for a while, and has made me eager to read more of the author's books, to see what I have been missing out on. 

Thanks to Avon for this review copy. This was my honest opinion. 

Guest Post & Giveaway - Ella's Secret York by Sophie Nicholls - Blog Tour

At the time that I wrote my novel, The Dress, I had been living in York for seven years – and it seemed the obvious place to set my story. 

Anyone who has ever visited this ancient walled city in the North East of England will know that it’s difficult not to be inspired just by walking around. As well as the soaring thirteenth century Gothic edifice that is York Minster, there are cobbled streets, stone gargoyles, lopsided beams and a network of ‘snickleways’ – narrow passageways that wend their way between the main streets –
 everywhere you look. 

But it was one particular courtyard, tucked away off Grape Lane – and one particular shop with beautiful curved windows – that fuelled my fantasies when I was writing the story of Fabia and Ella Moreno, the mother and daughter who arrive in York to set up their vintage dress shop. 

Priestley’s Vintage is an enticing place, full of beautifully curated high-end and designer vintage. You stumble across it, like a delicious secret, as you duck under the low beams into Norman Court. It’s easy to imagine a story unfolding in such a place. 

And, in fact, York is a city of secrets. When Ella, one of my characters, arrives in the city, she’s intrigued by what she can see from her bedroom window – the jumble of higgledy-piggledy rooftops, the glimpses of the Minster in the moonlight. 

But away from the main tourist attractions – the Minster, the Treasurer’s House, the Walls – are other layers of history, as Ella discovers as she begins to explore. Katrina Cushworth, Ella’s school friend (if that is the right word), lives in one of the graceful Georgian townhouses that line The Mount. Billy and his family live in the rows of terraces that lead down to the river, originally built for workers in the Terry’s and Rowntree’s chocolate factories. 

York is also a city of bridges and one of the scenes from the book takes place on the new Millennium Bridge. Unlike the older stone bridges, this one is an ambitious curve of steel and wood. 

When I was working on The Dress, I imagined the map that Ella might sketch in her journal of some of these ‘secret’ landmarks. 

If you walk away from the city centre along the riverbank – or even take a boat trip along the River Ouse (and has there ever been a better name for a river?),  you’ll quickly find yourself in a different York altogether. If you look hard enough, down in the long grass by the boat moorings, you might even find a rickety swimming platform or a rope swing. 

Or you may prefer to while away your time rummaging through the second hand book shops, vintage clothing shops and antique emporiums that you’ll find throughout the city. I’m sure there are many more stories there just waiting to happen. 

Thank you Sophie for that interesting look at York.

Giveaway - Win 3 x paperbacks of The Dress (Open to Europe only)

Amazon UK
Carmen Jimenez at Bonnier Zaffre has kindly donated 3 copies of the The Dress to be given away to lucky winners. 

Giveaway open to Europe Only, all options are voluntary, but please do what they ask, as I will be verifying the winner. Giveaway closes 23:59 5/8/2016. Winner will be announced on twitter and emailed, and they will need to reply within 7 days, or forfeit the prize, and I will re-draw for a new winner.  Good luck everyone.

Win 3 x paperbacks of The Dress (Open to Europe only)

About Sophie Nicholls

Sophie Nicholls is an Amazon bestselling author. The Dress is her first novel – which hit the Kindle Top 5 in 2012, and is followed by two further books in the well-loved ‘The Dress Trilogy”.

She is an award-winning poet and leads the MA Creative Writing Distance Learning at Teesside University. She lives in North Yorkshire, in the North of England with her partner and young daughter. She likes swimming outdoors and eating large quantities of very dark chocolate. // @wordsauce

Don't forget to check out what Sophie Nicholls had to say at the other stops on this blog tour. 

Funday Friday - Truth or Lie? - Cassandra Parkin - Month 3 Week 4

Welcome to the latest edition of Truth of Lie. My name is Rachel and I will be your host, for this exciting new game show. Each Friday, I will have one contestant, and they will be answering at least 14 questions. There is of course one small twist...

For three of the answers, they have to lie. It is your task as the viewer to guess which three answers are lies. You are allowed 3 guesses and I want them posted into the comments field. 

Every 4 weeks, I will close the guessing, count up how many correct answers each of you has, and create a leaderboard. Anyone who is top of the leaderboard, will go into a draw for a paperback of the winners choice (open internationally). 

Please do include a way for me to contact you (email or twitter or similar), so that I can let you know if you have won. 

The weekend after a 4 week period closes, not only will I produce a leaderboard, and announce a winner, I will also let you know into the true answers, and which were the lies.  

Closing date for the third month is 11pm on 4th August 2016. 

So without further ado, let's meet today's contestant. 

Good morning Cassandra Parkin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a Yorkshire-based writer with Cornish roots and a passion for fairy-tales. My most recent novel The Beach Hut is about a grown-up brother and sister who build an illegal beach-hut on a Cornish beach in the autumn, and the way their decision impacts on the lives of those around them.
Welcome back to Rachel's Random Reads, Cassandra. For those that are new to my blog Cassandra last year was talking to us about Perranporth, Cornwall as part of my Cornish Week, so its a pleasure to see her back again. 
Now onto the show, and remember everyone, Cassandra hasn't been entirely truthful with three of these answers, so it is up to you to guess which ones they are (only 3 guesses per person though). 

1) Who is your favourite author?

This is so hard! I can do a Top Five, but beyond that I honestly can’t choose…so I’m going to say: Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, Tove Jansson, Charlotte Bronte and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

2) What book do you wish you had written?

I would love to have written any of Tove Jansson’s Moomin books, but most especially Moominvalley in November, which describes a little orphan boy called Toft who visits the Valley, only to find the family are all away. It’s the last Moomin book she wrote, and it came after the death of her mother. There’s a tendency to think of the Moomin books as cute, cheerful little stories, but I think Moominvalley in November is a beautiful, oblique commentary on the grieving process. Also, I would so love to be able to draw – that’s one talent that I really envy.

3) Tell me about any really memorable dream or nightmare you have had

I have a recurring dream about a house with lots and lots of bedrooms. The house feels like home, but it’s also unfamiliar. Each door that I open is a new and lovely discovery – another place I didn’t know was mine to enter, another space I can explore and inhabit before moving on. I think this must be inspired by the memories of my grandparents’ hotel down in Cornwall, where my whole family would spend every summer. 

4) What was your most memorable holiday ever?

I think probably the first time I went to Reykjavik. It was almost mid-winter, and we landed at the airport in the snow and drove straight to the Blue Lagoon. I remember running through the snow to jump into this huge outdoor hot spring. We floated around in the hot mineral water and watched the moon rise with snow falling on our shoulders.

5) If you could be an animal what would you be and why?

I’d be a cat. Specifically, I’d be one of my cats. They live very happy, luxurious lives and are disgracefully spoiled.

6) If you could be a fruit, what would you be and why?

I would be a Kiwi, just because they’re my favourite! They’re such a cool, weird-looking fruit.

7) What is the most annoying interview question you have ever been asked?

It’s not annoying exactly, more perplexing, but - I never really understand why people (other than editors) ask, “How long did it take you to write your book?” It seems like such a strange thing to want to know. What are they going to do with the answer? What difference does it make? I don’t mind telling them, I just don’t understand why they care!

8) If you could only read one author for the rest of your life (and I’m aware that’s a very scary world), who would you choose and why?

This doesn’t quite fit with my Favourite Authors answer, but I’d probably have to pick James Joyce – just for one single book, though, which is Ulysses. I read it on holiday when I was nineteen and it changed my life for ever. It’s the book I’ve gone back to most often throughout my adult life and I find something new each time.

9) Besides reading, which I am guessing is a given, what other hobbies do you have?

I love crafting - especially making patchwork quilts. I started with simple square patches in random patterns, and I’m gradually expanding my skill-set to take on more complex and challenging patterns. My bucket-list project is the double-wedding-ring pattern, which is apparently terrifyingly hard. It’s a hobby that requires a certain amount of patience (not to say bloody-mindedness), so in my head this sort of goes with novel-writing.

10) What is your best childhood memory?

My brother being born, when I was five. His birthday is a week before mine, and he and my mum came home from hospital on my birthday. He was the best present ever.

11) Did you have an invisible friend as a child? If so please tell me about them. 

For years and years, I had an invisible tiger-cub called Archie. He was quite fierce and wild and dangerous to everyone else, but we had a very special bond, so obviously he never did anything to hurt me. (Obviously.) He went with me everywhere, slept on my pillow, understood me and took my side when no-one else did, and crept out in the night to bite the toes of people who had upset me during the day. He finally vanished round about the time I went up into Junior school. I like to think he’s living in a lovely forest somewhere, hunting down all the other Imaginary Friends who are unwary enough to cross his path.

12) What would your ideal pet be?

It’s a cliché that writers are supposed to love cats, but I genuinely do. They’re the perfect writing companions because they just lounge around all day watching you work, occasionally coming to walk on your keyboard or sit on your knee. They’re very comforting. My littlest cat Skyler regularly helps out by sitting on the keyboard and adding strings of spurious 111111111112222ssssddddddddss to my work.

13) What is your guilty pleasure when it comes to music? 

ABBA. Anything by ABBA. I love the cheerful nonsense that is “Mamma Mia” – especially the part where everyone pretends Pierce Brosnan can sing, and that his performance is brilliant and delightful, and not in any way awkward.

14) If you could only look at one view for the rest of eternity, what or where would you like to be to see this view?

That’s easy - Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth, where I spent every summer. My grandparents had a hotel that was three minutes’ walk from the beach, and we used to spend every Easter and Summer holiday there. They sold the hotel when I was five, but my memories of our summers there have been a major inspiration for all three of my novels. My second favourite view would be Perranporth Beach, also in Cornwall but on the much wilder North Coast – where my second novel, The Beach Hut, is set.

Thank you Cassandra for agreeing to take part, I also love ABBA especially if they come on in a night club, always good up beat tracks to dance to, and Archie sounds adorable. I suppose if you do have an invisible friend, then a tiger cub is the way to do it. 

I hope you have enjoyed this edition of Truth or Lie? I will be back next week with another episode, and in the mean time...
Don't forget to guess the lies, to be in with a chance of a prize! 

For more about Cassandra Parkin:
My blog:
My Twitter handle: @cassandrajaneuk
My Amazon author page:

Thursday 28 July 2016

Book Review - Falling by Julie Cohen

Amazon UK
Title: Falling
Author: Julie Cohen
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Transworld
Publication Date: 28th July 2016
Rating: 5 Stars

Can you imagine keeping a secret so devastating, you couldn’t even tell the people you love?

Honor’s secret threatens to rob her of the independence she’s guarded ferociously for eighty years.

Jo’s secret could smash apart the ‘normal’ family life she’s fought so hard to build.

Lydia’s secret could bring her love - or the loss of everything that matters to her.

One summer’s day, grandmother, mother and daughter’s secrets will collide in a single dramatic moment.

Is it too late for second chances?

Three very different secrets, three generations of women in the same family. One day where it will all come out, and a cracking story even leading up to that point. The Falling is simply amazing, Julie Cohen has managed to weave three stories together, with very little overlap, in such a way that you are drawn in and want to keep reading. 

Honor, is in her eighties and after a fall, has to move in with Jo, her daughter in law. Honor is hiding a few secrets. Honor is a proud woman, and doesn't want to accept any help, despite knowing she possibly may need it. 

Jo, is a single mother with three children, the youngest two are under five and then there is Lydia who is sixteen. Jo has been incredibly unlucky in love, although that could be about to change. 

With Lydia we see her diary entries, as well as third person narrative, and I felt the most sympathy with Lydia. Lydia's secret is revealed early to the readers, in her diary, but she keeps it hidden from everyone, but thanks to the diary, you really get a great insight into her mind. 

As they all adjust to the new living arrangement, you can see their relationships change, and see the family dynamics adjust. 

The secrets although they are important, aren't going to shock you, as you are in on them all quite early on, but because the book is written in alternating perspectives between the three ladies, you need to be aware of who knows what. 

The single dramatic moment mentioned in the blurb, is towards the end of the book, and where you may think that could be clever wording to get you to buy the book, it really is a highly dramatic moment, my heart was pounding, as it was playing out.

I'm so glad I read The Falling at a weekend as I couldn't put it down. It was compelling story telling, and the slightly tougher subjects were clearly well researched, and dealt with in a sensitive manner. 

The Falling is easily one of my favourite books by Julie Cohen, as she continues deliver thought provoking stories. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Transworld for this review copy. This was my honest opinion. 

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Book Review - Strictly My Husband by Tracy Bloom

Amazon UK
Title: Strictly My Husband
Author: Tracy Bloom
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 27th July 2016
Rating: 5 Stars

Couples who dance together stay together... 

Laura loves it when Tom takes her for a late night tango around the kitchen after their friends have gone home and they’re avoiding the washing up. She can’t dance but who cares when no one is watching? 

All that changes when Tom arrives on the doorstep with Carly, a professional dancer, and announces he’s offered her the spare room to rent while she performs in a show that Tom is directing. 

An outraged Laura doesn’t feel like dancing with Tom anymore but Carly does. It only takes two to tango, and given Tom’s history who knows where it could end? Will Laura be the one left watching from the sidelines whilst Carly waltzes off with her husband’s heart? 

Couples who dance together stay together – or do they? 

Strictly My Husband had me giggling right from the start and kept me thoroughly entertained for the duration of its amusing story. Written from a variety of view points, there are the five friends/relations that get together on a regular basis, and then there is the newcomer to the group. 

Carly is the focal person in the story, and yet all we know about her is from everyone else's points of view. She is a talented dancer who Tom has decided to take pity on and let lodge in his house, while she performs in the Halloween show, Tom is putting on at Wonderland. What Tom neglects to do is mention Carly to his wife before they arrive home together, and as a result Laura, is suspicious from the start about Carly. 

Laura is a market research analyst, and we do get to see some funny market research focus groups occur, who is married to Tom a dancer, and now head of Entertainment at Wonderland. Laura has a very analytical mind, and manages to convince herself that by the end of the run of this month long show, that Tom will have cheated on her. 

Then there is Laura's friend Hannah, who just doesn't seem as interested in her husband Jerry as she used to be. Jerry is a larger than life bloke who has barrels of enthusiasm for everything, but doesn't always follow his ideas through. I loved the scene with the 7 foot inflatable crocodile, as well as his transformation as the book progressed. 

There is a strong dance theme running through the book, with Laura and Tom being big fans of Strictly, in addition to the Halloween show being produced, that is called Malice in Wonderland, and is a zany, spooky, scary take on Alice in Wonderland, with big production numbers, but Tom explains his concept better than I can in the book! 

Amy is Tom's assistant, but she is one of the stand out characters in the book, she is not big on park policy, and makes it clear to everyone her thoughts. She is strong willed, and not afraid to speak her mind, and some of her explanations to people as she "corrects" them, or "informs them" of something had me laughing out loud. 

There is a lot of fun to be had in Tracy Blooms latest book, that feels as though it should be a big hit. It has her typical comedic timing, some down to earth characters that are relatable too, and some memorable scenes.  Occasionally Laura's pontificating was driving me slightly mad, but I could completely understand where she was coming from, and some of her arguments to try and persuade herself she is correct do make a great deal of sense. 

Utterly enjoyable novel that will get you in the mood for the next series of Strictly Come Dancing. 

Thank you to Lawsome Book and Netgalley for this review copy. This was my honest opinion. 

Happy publication day to Tracy Bloom. Strictly My Husband is out now! 

Book Review - Breakfast Under A Cornish Sun by Samantha Tonge - Blog Tour

Amazon UK
Title: Breakfast Under A Cornish Sun
Author: Samantha Tonge
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Carina
Publication Date: 28th July 2016
Rating: 5 Stars

Dreaming of the perfect man?
Kate Golightly needs to move forward and what better way to do that then with a trip to the Cornish coast with best friend and boss, Izzy.

The sea wind is just what Kate needs to finally relax and begin to let go of her past. Except she’s suddenly got one big reason to panic! She RSVP’d ‘yes’ to the Queen Bee of her high school’s wedding saying she’s bringing her boyfriend (she doesn’t have one) who looks just like Ross Poldark!

With only two weeks to find the Poldark look-alike of her dreams Kate is under a lot of pressure for the Cornish coast to deliver…

I spent pretty much the entire time I was reading this book with a huge grin on my face and the feeling of hunger in my belly. There are so many wonderful food descriptions, especially early on with a large amount of different doughnut flavours and toppings that I found myself craving a doughnut. 

For you see Kate works with her best friend Izzy in a cafe/cocktail bar called Doughnuts and Daiquiris, which does coffee during the day, and turns into a cocktail place at night, complete with Kate moving from waitressing to singing, as she is also a lounge singer. 

Kate manages to agree to go to an old school nemesis' wedding but also brags that she has a new boyfriend who looks exactly like Poldark. The problem is she is in reality single and only has a couple of weeks to find a willing volunteer that matches in the looks stakes. 

Cue a holiday to Cornwall that Izzy and Kate go on, to a holiday park that has seen better days. In true fiction book style, Izzy and Kate can't help but try to help out the wonderful owners with their problems. In doing so Kate finds two potential men for her plus one - Lucas and Tremain. 

Both men have their good points, although one of them is far better than the other, but the question is which one Kate will end up with. After all she only want's a plus one, she isn't ready to date again at all, after her previous relationship. 

I loved the setting in Cornwall and all the people they met at this holiday park, and also all the various ideas that came about for rebranding the business. Kate is a truly talented lady and clearly feels passionate about whatever it is she does, whether its singing, waitressing or coming up with startling good ideas. 

Kate's gran the Guv'nor also lives in Cornwall and is a formidable woman as she helps out and also tries to help Kate's heart recover from its previous upsets. 

There are some wonderfully entertaining moments in this story, as well as the wonderful food descriptions that don't stop once they get to Cornwall, in addition to dashin Cornish heroes, an unsavoury but not particularly clever bad person, and just an all around feel good summery story. 

I relished reading Breakfast Under A Cornish Sun, and it is set to be another triumph for author Samantha Tonge. This comes very close in my eyes to my favourite book by her, and is possibly even more enjoyable, just because I prefer doughnuts to scones! 

With dougnuts, daiquiris, dramatic scenery, brooding Poldark-esque men, what more could a girl want from a book! 

Thank you so much to Carina and Netgalley for this review copy. This was my honest opinion. 

Please follow along with the blog tour, to see even more thoughts on Breakfast Under A Cornish Sun

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